The Okanagan’s tourism industry has a problem: there’s too many people coming to visit.
In most ways it’s a pretty good problem to have. But, as more and more people visit the Okanagan, hotels and restaurants are having trouble hiring enough people to meet the demand.
This year British Columbia saw more than 5 million international visitors come to the province, a 12.2 per cent increase from 2015.
Daniel Bibby, the chair of the board of Tourism Kelowna and general manager of Spirit Ridge, says as a result hotels are filling up at an “unheard of” rate.
“There’s such a demand right now that the industry is growing faster than we’re grooming talent,” Bibby says.
The problem is particularly affecting front-line positions like receptionists, but Bibby says it’s hitting across the board, affecting management positions as well.
Bibby chalks the fast-growing industry up to a combination of a less valuable Canadian Dollar and the country’s perceived safety.
“If you think of everything going on in the world right now, we’re not building any walls around the Okanagan. This is considered a very welcoming, clean and safe environment that people want to visit, and of course we’ve got a community that’s second to none,” he says.
On top of that, Bibby says the Okanagan is becoming more of a destination during the “shoulder seasons” that bump up against the prime summer months.
A quickly expanding food and wine industry, along with more shoulder season events, is moving the region away from the traditional “peaches and beaches” summertime tourism to a more seasonally rounded industry.
That means more staff are needed to fill year-round positions in the tourism industry.
“We get to the point now where we’re still recruiting in January, which is unheard of. If you went back ten years that would never have happened,” Bibby says.
He says the industry is working with partners like Okanagan College to bring more talent to the region, which should start to fill those gaps in the long term.
Until then, Bibby says having a little bit more business than they can handle is a pretty good problem to have.
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